All academic disciplines have adopted standards for publishing. Fields within the humanities tend to use the standards outlined by the Modern Language Association. The MLA is a professional organization concerned with the study of language and literature. As part of its mission, the MLA has developed and provided a standard of publishing for scholarly papers. This standard is what is commonly known as MLA format.

In-Text Citations and Works Cited

An important element in publishing is the documentation of borrowed material in order to avoid plagiarism. MLA style requires writers to insert parenthetical citations after quoting or paraphrasing borrowed material. These in-text citations refer to a list of works cited included as a separate page at the end of the paper. Writers can find the guidelines for presenting works cited in the MLA Handbook.

Formatting and Usage

MLA style also standardizes formatting and usage issues. Formatting guidelines address elements concerning the arrangement of a paper, such as margins, font style and size, and the presentation of headings. Usage guidelines address issues such as comma placement and the presentation of numerical values.